At 16, I knew for a fact that recycling and composting should be a priority for everyone; hey, I was 16 – I knew everything. Fast-forward nearly a decade, and I’m still convinced that people should consume their natural resources responsibly, and dispose of their inorganic materials in an equally responsible manner. The difference is, having had the opportunity to live on my own, I now recognize the value of another naturally occurring resource that is even less replaceable than water or energy: time.
Life is short; work, and its consequential commute, occupies at least 25 percent of the average person’s day. Who can find the time to sift through cardboard, paper, glass, plastic and old batteries? Who has the time to drive down to the police station and drop off their expired prescription nitrates when the drain is six feet away? Civic duty notwithstanding, the average person really doesn’t get that much utility out of being green. Why compost if you don’t own a garden? Or, better yet, why pay more for recycling when you can simply throw things away and be done with them?
I believe most people would employ green practices if they had more time and ability to do so. Unfortunately, many people are not aware that there are certain green practices that can be incredibly cost effective, time sensitive, and even fun. I have gathered a list of a few green practices, many of which have the potential to save the time-pressed homeowner a nice chunk of change.
- Buy a Rain Barrel (via MIrainbarrel.com). These things are simple, cheap, and, if used correctly, cost efficient. Attach the barrel to your downspout, and you’re done. For an initial $70 investment, you can water a flowerbed or a garden for free for eternity. Watering a lawn with a rain barrel is impossible. It takes about 6,000 gallons of water to water an entire lawn one time, and the average rain barrel holds about 60 gallons of water. So unless you own quite a few rain barrels, or, you have a certain spot that needs watering, you’re still going to have to shell out for watering your lawn. (DISCLAIMER: this water should be considered non-potable.)
- Compost. Yes, composting is gross, but, it can still save you money by reducing the amount of water and electricity you consume using a garbage disposal. MIrainbarrel.com has a neat little composting device that will rake and sift the different ingredients so that you don’t have to. The device is a self-contained barrel, which helps mitigate odor. Also, you can take dry leaves and add them to a small amount of top soil: this will ensure healthy compost that can be used for any and all gardening purposes. In short, you can almost completely reduce the amount of topsoil that you have to use. Give this link a quick once over before you get started.
- Gardening not your thing? Have your sprinkler system updated and inspected. This will ensure that you are maximizing your water efficiency: wasted water is always money out of your pocket.
- Shovel early, shovel often. Snowstorm runoff poses the same risks as rainstorm runoff. Diligent plowing and shoveling will reduce the amount of salt you have to use and will also reduce ice buildup on your driveway. Shoveling by hand is of course more ‘green’ on the grounds of gas consumption, but, if you can manage to shovel frequently enough, you can.
- Weatherize your home for the winter. Save on your heating bills. This saves energy, and saves you money. The Macomb County Community Services Agency offers many different services for Macomb County citizens, provided that your income level meets their criteria. Otherwise, you can do your own quick inspection to see whether or not you might benefit from an upgrade. Savings can range anywhere from 5-30 percent.
- Invest in a non-disposable water bottle. If you do care about saving money and the environment, do not, under any circumstances, purchase bottled water. Buy three good-sized water bottles, distribute them: one in your car, one in your home, and one at work; voila, you have beaten the system. Bottled water is a sham of epic proportions. Do not let Dannon, Evian, Iced Mountain, or anybody else cash out on your ingrained habits. If you are concerned over the quality of your tap water, buy a Brita. It will run you $10 plus a 4-pack of filters every eight months.
- Reusable shopping bags. Some stores are already offering incentives for people who own their own non-disposable shopping bags. More to the point, some cities are now tossing a surcharge onto disposable bags to curtail consumption. My advice? Don’t pay a dime. Cotton bags are trendy, but they still require almost 100 uses before they offset a single plastic bag. Look for polyethylene bags: they’re the lowest impact. Mark my words, there will soon come a time when Michigan implements some form of legislation to curtail disposable bag consumption: either with fees or outright bans. Why? The Great Lakes. Plastic waste and marine life do not mix, ever.
Andres Villafane works as an intern in the Macomb County Executive Office, often providing content for the Make Macomb Your Home website.